The CYC-NET daily discussion group talked about the rights of young people in care. Two documents are published below for the interest of readers.
I: My rights in foster care
Compiled by the National Center for Youth Law, a California-based NGO funded by the ABA
I have the right:
to attend all court hearings concerning me.
if I am 10 years old or older, to be told in advance of all the hearings in my case.
to be represented in court by a lawyer.
to meet with my lawyer before each court hearing.
to have my lawyer tell the court what I want.
to have a lawyer who will do what is necessary to protect me and my rights.
to call witnesses to testify for me, whether or not I have a lawyer. I can ask the judge to require my witness to come to court.
to go to court and tell the judge what I think about any placement or placement change that is proposed for me.
to confidentiality, but information can be shared with people who need to know about me in order to provide me with care and services.
to meet with my social worker at least once a month.
I have the right:
to have placement with a relative be the first placement to be investigated and considered.
to live in a foster home rather than in a group home.
to live with my brothers and sisters.
to visit with my family.
Foster care placement
I have the right:
to be treated with dignity and respect.
to live in a home that is safe, healthy, and comfortable.
to a reasonable degree of freedom as long as I follow house rules (I cannot be locked up in my room or at home).
to practice my own religion (attend church, temple, mosque, or other religious services).
to participate in plans for my well being and future.
to adequate and nourishing food, shelter, free time, and clothes to wear.
to keep my stuff, including toilet articles, in my own storage space.
to keep the money I earn and save.
to keep the money receive from a lawsuit if it is in a blocked trust account.
to be free from abuse.
to not be forced to take medication unless prescribed by my doctor and approved by the court.
to confidential telephone calls and unopened letters. Calls and letters to and from my social worker, parents, and attorney may not be restricted.
to a list of my personal rights, and the house rules.
to participate in an Independent Living Skills Program, if I am 16 years old or older.
Filing a complaint
I have the right:
to file a compliant about my care, if I am living in a foster home, group home, or other residential facility. They may not take action against me for filing a compliant.
to file a complaint with my social worker, and the licensing agency if I am living in a licensed facility.
to file a complaint about my placement, care, or services with the State Foster Care Ombudsperson.
I have the right:
to prompt medical care and treatment for any illness or disability.
to talk to a counselor or therapist if I want or need to.
if I am pregnant, to be in a special program where I can get counseling, medical care, and a place to live.
to get birth control, prenatal care, or an abortion, and, if I am 12 years or older, to get care for a sexually transmitted disease, on my own and confidentially.
if I am 12 years or older, to get care for mental health problems and alcohol or drug use without adult permission.
I have the right:
to go to school and to receive any special help that I need.
to meet with the principal and discuss the situation before I can be suspended.
to a hearing before I can be expelled.
to written notice of the charges against me at least ten days before the hearing on whether I should be expelled.
II: The rights of children and youth in care
The National Association of Child Care Workers in South Africa (NACCW) in its capacity as FICE-SA publishes and promotes in that country the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the end of their booklet the following Charter is included:
Children and youth in care have the right to:
1. Know their rights and responsibilities.
2. All the Rights indicated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
3. Developmentally appropriate plan of care which includes a plan for security and life-long relationships and a right to participate and make changes in it.
4. Expect that their plan of care is based on a thorough and competent ecological assessment of their needs and strengths.
5. A regular review of the plan of placement and care and a right to participate and make changes in it.
6. Care and intervention which respects their cultural differences and which affords them the opportunity to learn about and maintain their cultural heritage.
7. Care and intervention which respects their religious differences and which affords them the opportunity to worship and receive religious instruction.
8. Care and intervention which respects their individual differences.
9. Regular contact with their parents, family and friends unless a legal order or written report indicates otherwise. They have a right to say if they are frightened or unhappy about seeing parents, or any other person and cannot be made to see anyone if they do not want to.
10. Live with their biological family and under circumstances where this is not possible, a right to appropriately participate in the choice of an alternative.
11. Their parent’s involvement in their plan of care, unless proved to be not in their best interests, and the right to return to live in their community in the shortest time possible.
12. Send and receive mail which has not been read by others. In rare cases when mail must be read the child has a right to be present. Children and youth have a right to be informed that prohibited items may be removed and withheld.
13. Personal privacy, free time to pursue their own activities, and a right to their own possessions.
14. Be respected and a right to protection from all forms of exploitation, abuse and neglect. They have the right to opportunities of learning which teach them respect and care for others.
15. Youth have the right to see their records and reports provided the contents will not hurt them or is not about someone else. They have the right to access on information regarding themselves and their family. Children have the right of access to appropriate information regarding themselves and their family under the supervision of a social worker.
16. An education appropriate to their aptitude and ability.
17. Appropriate clothing for their age and activities.
18. Participate in sport, cultural, and recreational activities in the community.
19. Age-appropriate discipline which does not include:
any form of physical punishment.
removing food and drink
being prevented from seeing parents, family or friends, letter writing, or making phone calls.
being made to wear clothes that draw attention to themselves
being stopped from receiving medical or dental care
being given any form of drug to keep them quiet
being stopped from going to sleep
Children and youth have a right to know the law regarding punishment of children in residential facilities.
20. Be cared for by competent caregivers.
21. Be heard, particularly when decisions are made concerning them. They must be given the opportunity to say what they want to say in their own way and be able to ask if they don’t understand anything.
22. Know who they can talk to when they have difficulties or their rights have been violated. They have a right to choose to whom they will talk and to have someone present whom they trust, to help them talk.
23. Know the procedure to follow when making a complaint regarding the violation of their rights.
24. The least restrictive and most reclaiming environment appropriate to their developmental needs and problems.
25. A programme and materials which afford the maximum opportunity for growth and development, thereby minimising weaknesses, while developing strengths.
26. Youth, at the age of 18 years, have the right to decide (together with their parents) whether they wish to remain in care to complete their education.
27. Expect that the organisation will provide a safe, secure place to live, with support, counselling and the services of a social worker.
Children and youth in care have certain responsibilities which they can be expected to fulfil, if:
The responsibility is age-appropriate;
The ability to meet the responsibility has first been taught by caregivers;
They are physically, mentally and emotionally capable of the responsibility.
Children and youth have the responsibility to:
Be helpful to others in the residential facility;
Maintain personal cleanliness and tidiness;
Respect differences of culture, religion and
those who are disabled.
This Charter of the Rights and Responsibilities of Children and Youth in Care was drawn up by a group of NACCW staff, child care workers and children in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Regions of the Association